Are you familiar with the practice of Zen?
January 23, 2007 5:12pm CST
I would like to expose as many people as possible about the many benefits of simply the knowledge of zen and of meditation. Please feel free to respond or ask questions about Zen.
• United States
23 Jan 07
I am currently reading up on Buddhism (no particular branch). I like the idea of a non-theistic religion which makes us all responsible for what happens to us and for how we can help others. Meditation, I got into years ago with yoga practice. Any materials or particular classes you might recommend?
• United States
24 Jan 07
Yes, in fact, I would recommend some reading material. Anything by Thich Nhat Hanh is terrific. But there is one book in particular which I recommend above all others and that is a book called "Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind" by Shunryu Suzuki. I just in fact saw the book (on tape) for sale on ebay for 8.99 with one bid and with 5 days left. There are also several "buy it now" options for the actual book - one is as low as $3.75! Thank you very much for your response. I like what you said about making us responsible for what happens to us and for how we can help others - that's it right there - the very reason why zen is so useful! Interestingly, sometimes monks are thought of as people who supposedly "run away from society" when in fact, it is exactly the opposite. How can you help others or even communicate effectively on a regular basis - which by the way includes listening, which many people don't really do - sure they hear you, but are they free from their own judgements while you speak? Or are they perhaps thinking about what's for dinner?...lol. If you don't slow down from time to time and study yourself through some form of reconnection, whether it be in the form of a hike in the woods or a quiet moment alone, then you perhaps you will say or do something which you may eventually regret. Good luck with tracking down some good material! Enjoy! Oh and don't forget...no slouching over the keyboard and take a deep breath. Peace. -Charlie
• United States
24 Jan 07
Ok, so here it is in a nutshell (well more like a really big nutshell!). You can be of any religion and still practice Zen - let that be said first. Zen came to be as a combination of two things - a philosphy and a religion, which in turn makes it neither, yet both - Zen truly is not a theistic religion, where you pray to some deity. The philosophy is Taoism and the religion is Mahayana Buddhism. Simply put, Zen is a way of life. You can be typing on the computer and still practicing Zen. There are several key things on which you should focus - the challenge comes in keeping them all together at the same time. It is kind of like chasing a toddler around the room, cleaning up every little mess here and there - fact is, the human mind is a mess too - filled with ideas and emotions which take us away from the moment - and that is the point of meditation or of Zen - to be in the moment, which has also been referred to as "The Now." It is my belief that we have control over very little in our lives. But what we do have control of is right here and now - one buddhist monk said that we are nothing more than a swinging door - that is our breath - so pay attention or in other words, be mindful of breath. Here are some of the key things to try to focus on: Sit up straight! Posture is crucial! Ok. Got it? Now take a deep breath! Continue to focus on your breath and your posture at the same time. Lastly focus on your attitude of mind. Are you thinking? If you are thinking, then watch that thought as though it is just a cloud passing by in the empty sky, then let it go. Just keep doing that - letting go is the key. Also, are you reaching out and trying to achieve something, thinking to yourself - ah, this is good. Rather it is neither good nor bad - those are just conceptions of the human mind - nothing more. Nature does not see a preyed upon gazelle as a good thing or a bad thing - it just IS. Zen is very difficult, especially in a busy, busy world. It's one thing to sit in a quiet room with candles and incense and be all peaceful and mindful, but try it while you are working - that is wherein lies the true usefulness of Zen. That is also why we call it practice. You can never truly perfect it because as soon as you think that you have perfected it, you've missed the point completely. There is no ego, no goal - nothing to achieve or obtain - it is emptiness. But when our mind is empty, totally free from clinging to this and to that, we mirror the infinite universe (that reminds me of a meditation which I found to be really cool - in the early morning or late afternoon, some monks sit and look at the horizon (of course away from the sun) and when you do that, there is really nothing preventing you from being able to literally see infinity - there is nothing but zillions of miles of space - granted it's just blue, but is it really just that or is it something deeper? - I found that interesting). So remember 3 things and you will be practicing Zen: Posture, Breath, and Attitude of Mind. Quoted directly from a book called "Questions to a Zen Master" by Taisen Deshimaru it says: "Through correct posture, the mind is like a drawn bow, the mind its arrow. Breathing is most important. Everything that lives, breathes. In the beginning is the breath. Zen breathing is like no other kind. Its chief aim is to establish a slow, powerful, natural rhythm. If you concentrate on breathing out, long, deep and gently, and fix your attention on your posture, then eventually, the breathing will take care of itself. Correct breathing can follow only from correct poture. In the same way, the right attitude of mind flows naturally from a profound concentration on posture and breathing. Whatever had "wind" lives long, intensely, and tranquilly. The practice of proper breathing enables nervous reactions to be neutralized, instincts and emotions controlled, and mental activity directed. Circulation within the brain is significantly imporved. The cortex rests and the conscious stream of thoughts ceases, while blood is feed to irrigate deeper levels. You wake from your half-slumber and your activity confers a sense of well-being, serenity, and calm, very close to deep sleep yet fully awake. The nervous system is relaxed, the "primitive" brain active. One is receptive, attentive to the highest degree, through every cell in the body." It goes on, but you get the point. Zen has profound impacts on your health, on your overall well-being, and most importantly, can help people to cope with outside stimuli more effectively. I've worked with children all my life - how else could I stay sane? When frustrated, do you ever find yourself taking a deep breath? There is a reason for that. It is relaxing and helps you to let go of negativity. So I hope that helps you to understand Zen a bit more clearly. I know that when I first heard of Zen, I thought to myself - that's it - that makes sense to me! I hated going to Sunday School as a child - it didn't make sense to me - it felt so disconnected from the outside world. Through Zen, I found the pearl of wisdom to life itself. While you are here on Earth, whether you are Christian or Muslim, you can at least be mindful. And not just mindful of your breath and posture and attitude of mind, but ultimately and more importantly, you can be more mindful of the effect of your actions on others. Zen has the potential to bring peace to all nations, all creed, all people everywhere. A brief poem to leave you with: "Drinking a bowl of green tea, I stop the war." The author is anonymous, but it hung in the dining room at the Zen Buddhist Temple at which I praticed in 1996. Peace. -Charlie